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Mention a sea mine, and many people might assume you’re speaking of a World War II relic—covered in seaweed and algae—but sea mines are still actively developed and used today and pose a significant threat to U.S. military, allied, and commercial shipping, particularly in narrow passages and transit lanes.
These self-contained explosive devices are placed in waterways to harass, damage, or destroy surface ships or submarines. They’re a low-cost option that are also used to either deny access or even force vessels to a certain area. Their destructive force can be extensive.
As part of its sea mine countermeasure efforts, the U.S. Navy commissioned the development of the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS), which will can detect, classify, and localize floating and near-surface moored mines. The ALMDS is integrated into the MH-60S helicopter to provide a rapid wide-area reconnaissance and assessment of mine threats using a pulsed laser light to image areas potentially containing mines.
“These self-contained explosive devices are placed in waterways to harass, damage, or destroy surface ships or submarines. Sea mines' destructive force can be extensive.”
Before any new system or tool is introduced to the warfighter, it must undergo rigorous quality assurance testing. In 2015, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) in Panama City, FL, needed to validate that the ALDMS system met the approved laser output specifications before it could be deployed. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) had run tests and provided operational data to the Navy. Now, it was up to the Navy to perform their own tests to ensure everything was functioning as specified.
However, the NSWC PCD ALMDS program lacked a repeatable process for measuring the system’s laser output, resulting in inconsistent readings that didn’t match the system specifications provided by the OEM. The OEM had a solution for laser calibration, but cost and lead time concerns prompted the desire to find another solution.
The Booz Allen Panama City office—an engineering hub with its own fabrication facility—sits right across the street from the NSWC PCD. Our engineers in Panama City serve diverse clients providing rapid prototyping, design, and fabrication expertise. Plus, we’ve been supporting the Navy in Panama City for more than 20 years, so they turned to us for help.
A calorimeter is used in the testing of the ALMDS system, and the placement of the calorimeter varied each time the Navy tested the system—which was the cause of the unreliable data readings.
Booz Allen technicians, mechanical engineers, and Computer Aided Designers took a 3D laser scanner to the ALMDS test lab to obtain point cloud data to develop detailed 3D models of the ALMDS system. These models were needed to fully capture the complex curvatures of the interface locations. Once the point cloud data was in hand, the Booz Allen team was ready to design an affordable solution to meet the Navy’s needs.
Booz Allen developed models of the curved pod section based on the scans they took of the ALMDS system, and worked closely with the client to ensure all operational and safety requirements were considered. They then created a design for a calorimeter housing fixture that would hold the calorimeter in the same fixed position each time the ALMDS system was tested, ensuring that the data could be reliably compared.
The Panama City engineers collaborated with their counterparts in Booz Allen’s Huntsville office to fabricate the curved housing components. These printed parts were combined with components machined in Panama City to provide a fully functional, cost efficient solution that showcased Booz Allen’s ingenuity and commitment to solving our clients’ challenges—large and small. Throughout this process Booz Allen developed three iterations, along with associated prototypes, to get to a final delivered design in just 3 weeks of work time.
The ALMDS system reached initial operating capability in 2016 and is currently being delivered to additional users throughout the Navy.
Booz Allen continues to be committed to providing solutions to the U.S. Navy and other ongoing work in Panama City. They provide value-added support including program management and logistics, and engineering, system integration, and procurement and software management support on a wide range of programs.